An Uber Eats courier is pictured as they pick up an order for delivery from a restaurant in Toronto on February 27, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

An Uber Eats courier is pictured as they pick up an order for delivery from a restaurant in Toronto on February 27, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

Uber Canada workers oppose company’s new pitch to provinces, say it lacks fair pay

Gig workers say Uber’s proposal allows company to continue to avoid treating its couriers and drivers fairly

Uber Technologies Inc. wants provinces to force the tech giant and other app-based companies to offer gig workers some benefits through a new proposal, but an advocacy group says the plan will still leave them paid less than minimum wage and with no job security.

Uber’s pitch was unveiled Wednesday and is called Flexible Work+. It asks provinces to require app-based gig employers to accrue self-directed benefit funds that can be dispersed to drivers for prescriptions, dental and vision care and provide safety training and tools like reflective vests.

Uber workers are currently classified as independent contractors who are not required to be given benefits or minimum wage like employees would be under provincial laws.

Gig workers and employment lawyers say Uber’s new proposal allows the company to continue to avoid treating its couriers and drivers fairly and to keep them in a state of precarity.

“They can lock us into an arrangement that is only for their benefit and that doesn’t benefit us at all,” said Brice Sopher, an UberEats worker in Toronto and representative for Gig Workers United, an advocacy group for delivery workers in Canada.

“(The proposal) doesn’t address any of the real issues that workers have been talking about.”

Sopher’s group has long been advocating for app-based companies like Uber to offer a living wage, sick pay and more stability to workers.

Uber has fought those requests by arguing that workers want flexibility to choose when, where and how often they work and don’t want to be tied to formal schedules that could come with traditional employment.

The company has been trying to further solidify that position across the globe in recent months. It spent millions last year to convince Californians to vote in favour of Proposition 22, which allowed them to continue to classify couriers and drivers as independent contractors rather than employees.

Sopher and Joshua Mandryk, a labour lawyer at Goldblatt Partners in Toronto, see the Canadian proposal as a continuation of Proposition 22, which passed in November’s election despite union opposition.

“Canadians should not be fooled,” said Mandryk.

“Uber has framed this proposal as a magnanimous bestowing of benefits when it really appears to be about carving their drivers out of basic employment standards protections like the minimum wage.”

Samara Belitzky, a lawyer at Samfiru Tumarkin LLP, said that if Uber workers were considered employees it would have to offer minimum wage, vacation pay and protected, parental and medical leave. Workers would be able to access compensation in the event of workplace injuries and would get unemployment benefits, she added.

“Uber realizes that the way … they’re misclassifying drivers as contractors when they’re really employees is not necessarily working out, and so they are now spending the time to get the government involved to change the law so that they can kind of have their cake and eat it too,” said Belitzky, whose firm is currently pursuing a class-action lawsuit against Uber.

When Uber unveiled its proposal, the company’s senior vice-president of global rides and platform pushed back on views like Belitzky’s.

“Our view is our current employment system is outdated, unfair and somewhat inflexible and some workers get benefits and protections and others don’t,” Andrew MacDonald told The Canadian Press.

“We feel that COVID has exposed some of those fundamental flaws and think this is a good opportunity for change.”

READ MORE: Uber Canada seeks labour model allowing it to provide benefits to drivers, couriers

Uber is pursuing the model, he said, rather than existing ones because an October survey of more than 600 Uber couriers and drivers in Canada showed 65 per cent favoured Flexible Work+. Roughly 16 per cent still like the current independent contractor model and 18 per cent wanted to be classified as employees with benefits.

MacDonald believes workers will like Uber’s idea to offer drivers and couriers in the country access to funds that they can spend on prescriptions, dental, or vision care and potentially even RRSPs or tuition.

Uber envisions drivers and couriers getting to decide how to use the money, which could be allocated based on hours worked, and it would also look at sending drivers and couriers equipment like safety vests or phone mounts.

UberEats courier Spencer Thompson sees the pitch as “a step in the right direction,” but wishes it addressed wages. He claims pay changes Uber made last summer resulted in some courier’s earnings dropping to $3.99 from $10 per trip before tips during the last year.

“A lot of the drivers, especially more in like the suburbs, would probably want some protections like minimum wage and other employee type benefits,” said Thompson, who has debated quitting the app.

Uber’s pitch includes committing to more transparency around pay and investing more in drivers, but the company wants regulatory changes to be widespread and affect app-based competitors too.

Companies including Lyft and DoorDash said in emails that they support stronger safety measures and benefits for workers, but did not directly comment on Uber’s pitch.

Government officials were just receiving Uber’s proposal Wednesday, but Ontario Labour Minister Monte McNaughton said he was looking forward to tackling the future of work.

A statement from the office of Manitoba Finance Minister Finance Scott Fielding said the province would need more time to evaluate the proposal before weighing in, but said “nothing prevents a company from going above legislated workplace safety and health requirements for its contracted workers.”

— with files from Steve Lambert in Winnipeg and Holly McKenzie-Sutter in Toronto

Tara Deschamps, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Coronavirusride hailingUber

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Alberta completed 18,412 COVID-19 tests, as reported on Wednesday, for a test positivity rate of 9.5 per cent. (NIAID-RML via AP)
Highest daily count of 2021 so far: Alberta reports 1,699 COVID-19 cases

Variants now make up 59 per cent of Alberta’s active cases

Screen grab/ https://www.alberta.ca/stats/covid-19-alberta-statistics.htm#geospatial
COVID-19 cases continue to grow in the Wetaskiwin area

The City of Wetaskiwin currently has 141 active cases.

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw and Premier Jason Kenney say the province would look at adding additional COVID-19 measures in the coming weeks if the virus continues to spread. (Photo by Government of Alberta)
Walk-in COVID-19 vaccination clinic to open in Red Deer

Alberta adds 1,345 new cases of the virus

Boston Pizza is one of the Wetaskiwin restaurants currently setting up a patio for in-person dining. Shaela Dansereau/ Pipestone Flyer.
City of Wetaskiwin to wave permit fees for temporary patio applications

City of Wetaskiwin Council unanimously carried a motion at the regular April… Continue reading

Kevin Buffalo in his traditional chicken dance regalia. (Photo submitted)
3rd Inaugural Grouse Symposium goes online

Virtual symposium will be held April 24

A lone traveler enters the Calgary Airport in Calgary, Alta., Monday, Feb. 22, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
VIDEO: Trudeau defends Canada’s travel restrictions as effective but open to doing more

Trudeau said quarantine hotels for international air travellers will continue until at least May 21

President Joe Biden holds a virtual bilateral meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
U.S. to help Canada with more COVID-19 vaccine supply, Biden says

The U.S. has already provided Canada with about 1.5 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine

In this image from video, former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin, center, is taken into custody as his attorney, Eric Nelson, left, looks on, after the verdicts were read at Chauvin’s trial for the 2020 death of George Floyd, Tuesday, April 20, 2021, at the Hennepin County Courthouse in Minneapolis, Minn. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Court TV via AP, Pool
George Floyd’s death was ‘wake-up call’ about systemic racism: Trudeau

Derek Chauvin was found guilty Tuesday on all three charges against him

sign
Alberta Biobord Corp. recently hosted a virtual open house from Stettler

The company plans to develop a fuel pellet and medium density fibre board (MDF) plant near the community

Ryan Applegarth. (RCMP photo)
Preliminary hearing date set for Applegarth

Ryan Jake Applegarth appeared briefly before the Ponoka Provincial Court over CCTV… Continue reading

The Rogers logo is photographed in Toronto on Monday, September 30, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Tijana Martin
Rogers investigating after wireless customers complain of widespread outage

According to Down Detector, problems are being reported in most major Canadian cities

People are shown at a COVID-19 vaccination site in Montreal, Sunday, April 18, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
Nothing stopping provinces from offering AstraZeneca vaccine to all adults: Hajdu

Health Canada has licensed the AstraZeneca shot for use in people over the age of 18

Most Read